“Our father, which art in heaven-”
“Let him fucking stay there.”
Long before Game of Thrones and Westworld, HBO had a little show which, despite poor viewership at the time, went down in history as one of the best on television. Deadwood ran for three fantastic seasons before it was tragically cut short in 2006. The Shakespearean plotting inspired later HBO smash hit Game of Thrones, whilst Timothy Olyphant’s Sheriff Seth Bullock is practically a direct descendant of his Justified character, US Marshall Raylan Givens. But while many things have tried, in the 13 years since its cancellation, nothing has come close to replicating the exact tv experience Deadwood provided. That is until this year when the show was brought back for a one-off TV movie special.
Writer David Milch returns to Deadwood (aided by True Detective scribe Nic Pizzolatto following the sad announcement of Milch’s diagnosis with Alzheimers) bringing along all of the fantastic dialogue that made the original run of the show so special. The weird and wonderful dialogue is so dense yet so meaningful that occasionally you feel the need to rewind a scene or, god forbid, turn on the subtitles (once again Dayton Callie’s Charlie Utter is the worst/best for this, mumbling and growling out his words like a true product of the time). But fans wouldn’t have it any other way, the labyrinthian dialogue is what makes Deadwood Deadwood. And the inventive cursing is back, with numerous f*cks, c*cksuckkers and c*nts being thrown out in the relatively short run time. The master of this is Ian McShane’s saloon and brothel owner Al Swearengen who’s back in all his glory, albeit being a bit more world-weary this time around. It could be the rampant modernisation tearing a path through Deadwood headed by returning villain George Hearst (a wonderfully evil Gerald McRaney). Or it could be the liver cirrhosis, as Doc Cochran (a greyer but no less Brad Dourif) reveals; Al is in his final days. Despite the 10 years that have passed within the world of the show, McShane inhabits the larger than life character of Al Swearengen once again and makes us wonder how we went for so long without him on our screens.
Timothy Olyphant’s Seth Bullock is back also and the central dilemma that haunts his character; how to deal with Hearst, hangs over the entire film. Unlike his (very funny) Marshall Raylan Givens in Justified, the simmering rage and clenched jaw of Sheriff Bullock was always a different character to what many would associate with Olyphant. In Deadwood: The Movie, however, Olyphant turns that rage and anger into one of the most poignant performances in the movie. A tearful scene of him at the bedside of a dying friend is one of the most affecting in the whole film.There are too many brilliant performances in the film to mention them all but of the entire cast, no one puts a single foot wrong. From Robin Wiegert as Calamity Jane, who appears harsh but is secretly head-over-heels in love with Joanie Stubbs (a fantastic Kim Dickens) to the wonderfully evil performance from Gerald McRaney as the menacing and fanatical George Hearst.
As a condensed season of the show, Deadwood: The Movie is not as explosive or as shocking as it maybe could have been. But as a celebratory swan song to one of the greatest shows of all time, it’s absolutely perfect. It’s enough to just spend some time in this world again, with these characters. So to have another engaging and emotional storyline from Milch is just the icing on the cake. Everything and everyone involved are at their very best, which makes it so much harder that this is the last we’ll ever see of the show. But rather than be driven into the ground, the show and movie will go down in history as an example of how to follow up a beloved show in a hugely satisfying way. Deadwood finally got the ending it deserved.
Reviewed by Tom